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Turner Valley neighbours brew up opposition to land changes

'Why was the cart put ahead of the horse by offering this land for sale before the municipal reserve designation was removed?'
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Brauerei Fahr proprietor Jochen Fahr submitted the only proposal when the Town of Turner Valley opened a bid on a piece of 'surplus' land this summer. (BRENT CALVER/Western Wheel file)

Several residents of a Turner Valley neighbourhood spoke up against a bylaw Monday night that seeks to remove a parcel of land from municipal reserve to allow for the subdivision and sale to a local brewery.

Jochen Fahr, owner of Brauerei Fahr, first approached the Town of Turner Valley's council with his vision to build a new facility on the westerly portion of a five-acre site off Decalta Road and Main Street.

But residents along Calkins Place are adamantly against removing the land's municipal reserve designation.

An error, however, in the digital advertising of the public hearing means the Dec. 6 hearing was not closed but rather will continue during the next meeting on Dec. 15. 

Eight letters were sent to council ahead of the hearing and more called in by Zoom to speak. All were in opposition. 

Calkins Place resident Gary Ashmore said this parcel of land is completely inappropriate.

"Why was the cart put ahead of the horse by offering this land for sale before the MR (municipal reserve) designation was removed?" he asked council. 

While not against industry, Ashmore said this move in particular seems to be a "rush job in favour of Fahr's expansion ambitions without any consultation with residents."

He said this seems like a "hail Mary attempt to facilitate an existing business.

"But at what cost?" 

Town CAO Shawn Patience said the parcel of land was declared surplus on July 19 and a request for bids was advertised starting July 26. Fahr's bid to buy was the single proposal submitted before the Aug. 18 closing date. 

In the fall, Coun. Jonathan Gordon put forward the official motion to accept the $235,000 bid. 

"I can't understate the importance of it," he told the Wheel in October. "First and foremost, it reflects the work that has been done by this current council in trying to reduce some of the red tape trying to encourage businesses that we want to come alongside and support them."

The opportunities for employment, he said, also drove his motion. 

"If this expansion goes through, it will be a phenomenal employer — it's rare to have a small town potentially have the number of employees in one business Jochen has designed for." 

A resident of the area for the past 15 years, Charlotte Lammerhirt, said the removal of this land designation contradicts several objectives outlined in the town's Municipal Development Plan, including protecting the character of town, environmentally sensitive areas and green spaces. 

Ashmore, too, had voiced concerns about losing the natural area. 

"If this land is redesignated, where in Turner Valley are you going to replace five acres?" 

Concerns were also raised about what land designations could be assigned if this removal goes through. 

"It could open the door for future development that will negatively affect our residents here," one resident said.

Wade Kerley, who resides closest to the area being discussed, offered an emotional presentation describing how his Turner Valley home was a dream come true when he bought it in 2010. 

"Fast forward to today, I'm still living my dream at the same location and I believe someone else's dream — Mr. Jochen Fahr's — is encroaching on mine," he said. 

"I truly want his dream to come true in Turner Valley, but in its respectful location — not on the municipal reserve land across the road from my home." 

The public hearing will conclude Dec. 15 before council considers second and third reading to remove the designation. 

- with files from Brent Calver